One of the constant themes from British nationalists is the assertion that the UK is the most successful and/or the strongest union in history. Yet they never quantify what they mean by success or strength, they give us no guidelines as to how success or strength are being measured.
There are however any number of possible quantifiers which could be used. Are we measuring by the highest number of foodbanks which are guarded by nuclear missiles? Is it perhaps by the largest number of billionaires who don’t pay their fair share of tax but expect bailouts from the government? If it’s counted by the number of Scottish Conservative politicians who make sectarian dog whistles about fitba teams on social media, the UK is surely a world beater. Or maybe it’s measured by the number of citizens in a developed state who die before their time due to government neglect, carelessness, or its malign intent in slashing social security. Or perhaps it’s measured by the number of shiny badges given to care workers instead of personal protection equipment. It may be enumerated by the notices in the online stores of companies manufacturing that PPE announcing that they’re only selling their vital equipment to England during this crisis. So many options. So many choices.
The latest to indulge in British nationalist puffery is Aberdeenshire Tory MP Andrew Bowie, who sadly didn’t get his jotters in December last year. Andrew describes himself as a “devolution sceptic”, by which he means that he thinks that it’s better to abolish any political identity for Scotland and restrict Scottishness to safe things. That would be things like North British shortbread. Or tartan borders on Visit Britain tourism posters which unaccountably fail to depict a single work of literature from Scotland while co-opting Scottish writers for London. Scottishness in Andrew’s world should exist only insofar as it serves to disguise the English nationalism of the British state and to allow British nationalists like Andrew to fondly imagine that they’re better than Scottish nationalists because their nationalism isn’t nationalist at all.
Andrew wrote a Facebook post in which he used the coronavirus epidemic to praise the strength of the union. Together we have supported one another, he wrote. Except if you’re a Scottish care home wanting to buy PPE online from a company that’s only going to sell to England. Except if you’re an essential worker who wants a test for the virus but you have to wait because Charles Windsor and the family members of cabinet ministers go to the top of the queue. Except if you’re on a zero hours contract and you don’t know how you’re going to pay your rent or keep food on table while billionaires like Richard Branson demand millions of pounds in handouts from the government. Except if you’re stuck in a top floor flat with three kids while you’re lectured by middle class people with gardens about keeping out of parks. But apart from that … suuuuure. The union is as strong as the rocks on which these islands are built, Andrew gushed. Which would be nice, if it were not for the fact that those rocks are being fracked by companies which give money to the Conservative party.
It would be even nicer if this union that he speaks of actually, you know, existed. Three nations and the north eastern bit of Ireland do not a union make when the politics and government of that “union” are decided by the votes of those in the largest part of it, which is able to outvote all the other bits together several times over. The UK is not a union in the same way that a large stale cake with a tiny tired cherry on top of it is not a fruit salad.
Meanwhile other apologists for the UK make their own pathetic bids for relevance. Inspired by the tin eared entitlement of the celebrity imagine video, Ben Fogle made his own bid for the prize for failure to read the room. Ben, who loves Scotland and wants us to remain a part of the UK because he thinks he’s a mountain in Easter Ross, has tweeted that we should all open our windows at 9am on Tuesday morning to sing happy birthday to Elizabeth Windsor. Incidentally, if Ben Fogle was in fact a mountain in Scotland, its Gaelic name would be Beinn Foghail, which means the mountain of blustering. This is as good a metaphor for the UK as you’re going to get.
Anyway, back to Liz. I’m not sure if Tuesday is her actual birthday, or her official birthday. She has two birthdays, that’s how entitled she is. Ben’s suggestion was as well received on social media as Matt Hancock’s shiny badge at the funeral of a care home worker. For one thing, not having to get out of your bed of a morning is the only upside to this disaster for most of us, and we’re not about to give it up to indulge in an act of sycophancy for an extremely wealthy woman whose family break the rules and put other people at risk, and who won’t put her hand into her extremely deep pockets to help out those less fortunate than herself. So you can bugger off with that, Ben. I’d rather howl at the moon while my eyes were on fire. Which I am told is one of the tracks off a Blue Oyster Cult album from the late 1970s – which is coincidentally the decade when unthinking sychophancy for all things royal went out of fashion. Only no one told Ben. He’s still pitching to be lead singer in the Red White and Blue Cult.
Ben’s suggestion for increasing the joy of the nations was matched in its cluelessness only by the announcement from Beatrice Windsor, the daughter of the one who was pally with paedophiles, that she’s going to postpone her wedding until next year when she’ll be able to have a bigger celebration which will, and I quote, “lift the nation’s spirits”. The only way that her family could lift the nation’s spirits would be if her father went to the USA to be interviewed under caution by the FBI.
If this really was a union it would have some constitutional mechanisms in place to protect Scotland and the other smaller nations of the UK from the malign effects of English nationalism. But it doesn’t. And the likes of Andrew Bowie MP want to remove those few safeguards and protections that the devolution that Scotland campaigned long and hard for gives us. This isn’t a successful union, far less is it the most successful in the world. It’s not the most successful union because it’s a union in name only. You can call a pile of dog crap on your lawn a garden feature if you want, but it’s still a pile of dog crap.
And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…
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